The Houston Texans got back to the formula that has been successful for them the last two seasons, run the ball, control the clock, and play lights out defense. That formula carried the day for the Saturday, allowing them to outlast the Cincinnati Bengals 19-13 and advance to the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
The Texans eliminated the Bengals at Reliant Stadium for the second consecutive season. Led by a defense that didn’t allow Cincinnati to score a touchdown, and the running of Arian Foster, they advance to face the New England Patriots in a rematch of a Monday Night Football game a month ago that didn’t go well for Houston.
Foster was the focal point on offense, carrying the ball 32 for 140 yards and a touchdown. He became the first player in NFL history to have over 100 yards rushing in their first three career playoff games. Foster also added 8 receptions for another 34 yards. For the second consecutive post-season, the Bengals had no answer for him. He rushed for 153 yards in last year’s playoff win over the Bengals.
In his first ever playoff game, Matt Schaub bounced back from a first half pick six to lead the offense down the field. The Bengals played deep all game to prevent the big play, and Schaub took what they gave him, hitting crossing routes and working the middle of the field. Owen Daniels benefited, leading Houston with 9 receptions for 91 yards.
On defense, the Texans shut down the Bengals offense for the second consecutive post-season. Cincinnati could only manage two field goals on offense, as J.J. Watt, (who else) led the front seven’s pressure on Andy Dalton. Watt led the defense with 5 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 2 qb hits and 2 passes defensed. As I predicted in the game preview, the Texans were able to pressure Dalton, and he was off target all game. He finished 14-30 for 127 yards, no touchdowns and 1 interception.
That pick came courtesy of Johnathan Joseph , who did a fine job in containing Bengals WR A.J. Green. The two Pro-Bowlers were matched up all game long, and Joseph held Green to 80 yards on 5 receptions, including shutting him out in the first half. The biggest defensive play of the game occurred in the fourth quarter, when Green beat Joseph on a post route. Joseph recovered and knocked the ball out of Green’s hands in the end zone just as Kareem Jackson came over to hit Green.
That was the best chance for the Bengals offense to score a touchdown, and they never got close to the end zone after that. On their final possession, the Texans were facing a 3rd and 3 and instead of running the ball, Gary Kubiak called a play-action pass. Schaub hit TE Garrett Graham over the middle for the first down that iced the game and sent the Texans on their way back to New England.
It was all thanks to a return to their tried and true formula. The league’s #1 team in time of possession, the Texans dominated the Bengals in that area 38:49 to 21:11. They will need to do the same next weekend, as they will attempt to slow down Tom Brady and upset the Pats.